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Word Wall – an excellent vocabulary building technique by Mrs. S. Akilandeswari

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There are many time tested techniques to help students expand their vocabulary trove. Some of them are – learn 5 new words every day and use them regularly, read, read and read, keep a thesaurus and dictionary handy, use mnemonics, picture association, and so on.  These techniques may work but they are slow and steady process.

Children nowadays need immediate results and they are happy with easy, simple and interesting techniques.  I teach English to students of age 15-17. The technique I use with my students is Word Wall. Word Wall is usually used in Primary classes and very rarely used in the Middle and the Senior Classes.

Many of us will be aware of Word Wall. Word Wall is a set of words displayed on a wall/ bulletin board/ chalk board/ white board in a classroom. The words are written in bold colours and fonts so that they are visible from anywhere in the classroom. These words are referred to continuously by the teacher and students.

The many advantages of Word Wall are –

  • As an easy and economical resource it doesn’t need any elaborate space/design
  • It provides visual cues for students
  • It ensures positive student engagement in vocabulary building
  • Students may be actively involved in creating the vocabulary list
  • Vocabulary can be enhanced constantly as it is visible for a certain duration – a term or until the completion of a unit of text
  • Helps students to improve spelling as they become aware of spelling patterns
  • Encourages increased student independence when reading and writing
  • Word wall is versatile as it can be used to introduce, reinforce and review vocabulary across subjects

Using Word Wall in vocabulary building is easy and simple. Students earmark the words to be included in the list to be put up on the wall. This helps them take ownership of learning. They are meaningfully engaged and motivated. During the entire teaching of the text, the teacher keeps referring to the words on the wall. The spelling, pronunciation and the other forms of the words (like adverb/adjective/synonym/antonym etc.) can also be put up.

Word wall can be used before reading, while reading and after reading. Using Word Wall improves reading comprehension and writing as the students start using relevant words in both writing and speaking activities. Letting the words remain on the wall for some time gives students the opportunity to keep referring to them. Even during class review tests, students may be allowed to refer to the words.

Word wall is a great technique to introduce and reinforce subject specific vocabulary. Students in the primary and secondary classes may struggle with subject specific vocabulary in Geography, Sciences, Mathematics and students of higher classes may have problems in subjects like Fashion Studies, Food Technology, Business Studies and Economics – to name a few. They face difficulty in learning, understanding and using specific words appropriately. As a Master Trainer I guided teachers in using Word Wall successfully in these subjects too. Students’ vocabulary accumulation can be assessed using Word Scrambles (anagrams) and Word Searches which can be easily created using online sites. Word Wall can be used to make passive vocabulary active.

For English words I created two Kahoot! quizzes. In the first one, students had to match words with their meanings and in the second one they matched meanings with words. Almost every teacher must have experienced the excitement Kahoot! creates in a classroom. The outcome was outstanding as every student wanted to be in the leader board. After attempting the quizzes twice, my students confidently started using words like ‘resuscitate’, ‘perceive’, ‘fling’, ‘hustle’, ‘loll’, ‘haute couture’, ‘fad’, and ‘retailing’ independently, which they struggled to do earlier. The quiz can be played multiple times to reinforce the vocabulary.

Word Wall is an excellent vocabulary building technique. When students experience confidence with the use of enhanced vocabulary, they are encouraged to use this technique at home as well. They can use the walls in their study area for having Word Wall, thereby doubling the effort and doubling the positive result. Students thus become self-directed in vocabulary enhancing.